With the 2013-14 season coming to a close, we can finally take a look at the past five months and really see who has enjoyed a coming-out party in the NHL. There are numerous people who have truly established themselves this year, but for now I'd like to focus on two in particular, starting with Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.
I just think he's been amazing. Since his team took the League by storm in October, there has been no drop-off in how he handles himself, how he interacts with his team or his level of communication with the staff and the players. You often hear him talk about his partnership with the players; what it means and what it represents. The players are just loving it.
Nathan MacKinnon was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, but Roy didn't throw him to the wolves. He put him on the third line. There were times he wasn't playing center, there were times he wasn't taking faceoffs. As he's adjusted to the League and gotten better and more comfortable, Roy has expanded his responsibilities. He's done a great job of managing MacKinnon's ice time. Not just with him. I think Gabriel Landeskog has improved dramatically, as have Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.
I'm really looking forward to the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN2). These are two elite teams that have somehow managed to get even better as we approach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues have been red-hot and goaltender Ryan Miller has made a seamless transition since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 28. He's been excellent. In talking to general manager Doug Armstrong, he mentioned the fact that the Blues weren't necessarily in the market to get a goalie. They put themselves in the market to get Ryan Miller. That's a very big difference. They weren't just looking to add any goalie.
In getting Miller, the Blues have positioned themselves as a team to make a run. You now have a goalie in the same conversation as Jonathan Quick or Tuukka Rask or Jonas Hiller. Now you get your own super-elite, world-class player, and there aren't a lot of those players out there.
The Wednesday Night Rivalry doesn't get much more intense than when the Montreal Canadiens face the Boston Bruins. It's one of hockey's greatest rivalries, and this week's game, at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN-HABS), will have us talking about an important player who isn't playing.
With the Canadiens, the biggest challenge is getting goaltender Carey Price healthy right now. When can he get back in the net? With Price out, Montreal will turn to either Peter Budaj or Dustin Tokarski against the Bruins.
We might not get the Price-Tuukka Rask matchup we were all hoping for, but there are several great young defensemen I'll be watching in this game.
The NHL Trade Deadline started off slowly Wednesday morning. But when the dust settled, a number of big deals were made that could change the shape of the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It's too early to pick winners and losers, but I really like what the Los Angeles Kings did in getting Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even if he's only at 75 percent to 80 percent of what he's capable of doing, it gives them something they don't have. He's a game-breaker and they don't have that.The big news Wednesday was the trade that sent Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lighting, a deal I think benefits both sides.
With the playoff race in full swing, the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week features a pivotal Metropolitan Division matchup as the Philadelphia Flyers host the Washington Capitals. Each team has been inconsistent this season, but they’ve also been active at the NHL Trade Deadline, and that could help each team find its stride in these last few weeks of the regular season.
This game is a big one because that division is wide open. As far as the Flyers, there has been a significant improvement in how they defend. They also has haven’t taken as many penalties, and they’re a team that can score with anybody when they are on their game. Obviously, Vincent Lecavalier being back helps. Wayne Simmonds is having a heck of a season, and he and Scott Hartnell are very important players heading into this part of the season and into the playoffs. But I think a lot of it will hinge on goaltender Steve Mason and their commitment to defense.
Mason has had a nice bounce-back season. He had a couple of tough stretches, but all in all I like his season.
This is it: the home stretch. The final few weeks of the regular season are upon us, and it should be an interesting run up to the playoffs and what could be an eventful summer.
When you consider some of the players currently dealing with injuries, as well as impending free agents who could be dealt before the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline, certain teams looking to make a deep playoff run are facing some huge decisions in a short period of time. How they handle those decisions could be almost as exciting as what happens on the ice.
It starts with the New York Rangers. They've been one of the League's hottest teams, but the Rangers are in a really interesting situation right now. Who knows what is going to happen with the contract situations involving Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi? I played with both of them. Both these guys have earned the right to earn their dollars as potential unrestricted free agents, especially a guy like Girardi.
This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry features a spirited matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). But with Buffalo in the middle of a rebuild it appears that general manager Tim Murray will look to trade franchise goaltender Ryan Miller before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 at 3 p.m. ET.
Although Miller won't start against the Bruins after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the speculation surrounding him will be an intriguing subplot in this game.
Right now Murray has a real high price tag on Miller. I spoke to three NHL GMs yesterday, including one that would be in pursuit of him. They said frankly the price is just too high right now. Obviously Murray wants to maximize his return, I don't blame him. Miller has played at a high level this year. In spite of the team struggling, he's been world-class. He was a rock star in the win against the Hurricanes.
After a wild up-and-down tournament that has seen countless incredible moments and more than a few upsets, the gold-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is finally upon us. It features two of the most talented rosters in the entire tournament as Sweden takes on Canada with the gold medal on the line.
Each team features specific strengths that helped them get it this far and will rely on those strengths to win one last game for gold.
The semifinal games are all set for the hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and feature two of the best international rivalries in the game. The United States will play Canada and Sweden will face Finland, with a shot at the gold-medal game on the line in each.
As a hockey fan, there is so much to love about these two matchups.
For me, it starts with the United States.I think the U.S. is playing a great style of hockey. They've made a great transition onto the international ice. They're playing with a lot of speed, and that's exactly what coach Dan Bylsma wanted. He talked about that coming into the quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic. They've looked fast and pushed the pace while doing a good job of attacking the middle of the ice.
Listen in as NHL stars wear mics during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs! WATCH NOW ›
I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.